April 2018

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Stubbornly Optimistic

Two weekends ago Ann and I went to Paradise at Mt. Rainier to celebrate our sixth ceremony anniversary. (We also have a wedding-sanctioned-by-the-state anniversary--2.5 years-- and a private anniversary--20 years.) The day before we left, I had severe intestinal distress (I'll spare you the details), but I was feeling okay that morning and thought I knew the source of the distress (too much of a supplement. Those things are powerful.), so we went.

Friday night, we had dinner at the Paradise Inn restaurant, and--feeling better and being stubbornly optimistic--I had blueberry pie with ice cream AND whipped cream and decaf coffee after a reasonable soup dinner. Big mistake. I spent much of our anniversary week-end in bed while Ann hiked. My other meals were some combination of a dry toasted bagel, apple sauce, and gatorade or Sprite (a little bubbly). 

I'm still easing more gradually into real food, and I have not taken any supplements since I got sick, but my lifelong tendency towards a stubborn optimism, even in the face of evidence that I should be more cautious, remains. 

In general, I think that optimism has served me well. I've traveled in places that made my parents anxious (places where I learned to see the world from different perspectives), taught students with a reputation for being tough (I loved them), divorced my wealthy husband and married my teacher-from-a-small-West-Texas-town wife (who is fabulous, as you know if you know her or read this blog). 

After brain surgery for my first tumor and radiation for the second, I started writing this blog and then came to graduate school at the University of Washington for a Masters in Social Work with a goal of becoming a therapist for people with life-changing health conditions. My oncologist/neurologist warned me that, with my disabilities, I would not be successful in school and would not get a job. I was pissed that he would rain on my stubborn optimism, and I went to school anyway. I'm starting year four of five in school, and it's going well. 

At least mostly it is. Classes have been generally interesting, and assessments have mostly been written assignments, a strength that a rigorous undergraduate program years ago prepared me for, so I've done well. I'm also writing this blog and working on a couple of memoirs (I have a lot to say about my life), and I've been working to encourage the UW School of Social Work to include disability content in its required courses. (It's amazing, but there's basically nothing there now. I've certainly learned more from the project than anyone else has so far, though I hope future students will learn more.)

This quarter, I started my second practicum (internship), which is harder than school is for me. I'm working two afternoons a week at an assisted living facility, and I love the residents, but find that functioning as a worker with disabilities in an ableist world is harder than I had expected. I remember my oncologist/radiologist's prediction, and my stubborn optimism wilts a bit. 

While the other workers whiz around, I move slowly and get less done that others do. I can't hold heavy doors or lift boxes. Elders respond more differently to poetry than the teenagers with whom I worked than I had expected. Some of them seem confused to see me there with my crossed eyes and cane for balance and to learn that I don't live there. (The idea doesn't stick, so sometimes the same person will ask me multiple times, "Do you live here?") I don't remember details as well as I'd like to, and I get more frustrated with myself than is helpful. 

My confidence is wavering, and today as Ann and I ate lunch together, I wondered aloud whether this whole MSW idea had been a silly one. However, Ann's more stubbornly optimistic than I am, and she reminded me of all the positive things that I have already experienced. I'll bounce back, but for now I'm wondering where all of this will lead, and if I might have taken a better route. 

A better route to where? Good question. I'm glad you asked it. Maybe to a role of service or to some sort of work where I can help others with similar struggles. Or maybe the destination really isn't the point. May the point is the route, the journey, as the cliche claims. 

The idea that the journey itself is the point is lesson I keep learning and re-learning (which of course means I'm not learning it at all, but have intimations of this wisdom.)

Fortunately, I just have two more classes and one more paper this summer quarter. My practicum will continue through the break, but I should have more time to sit and look around the path that I'm taking, rather than trying to focus on what I can't see in the distance. 

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